The Australian took a lead yesterday in its reporting of the Toyota deal, but now it seems that it stuck its neck out way too far.

The amusing thing is watching it try to pull back without losing face.

I wrote yesterday about the battle of the spins leading to an odd outbreak of media diversity in the reporting of Toyota’s decision to manufacture the Camry in Australia. The Oz had a giant splash saying that the government subsidies were wasted, because Toyota would have made the decision anyway.

Meanwhile The Age’s motoring writer, Ian Porter, had a piece saying the exact opposite – that only the Rudd Government’s intervention had stopped the Camry going to Thailand. Oddly, this piece still doesn’t seem to be available online.

Now it seems that motoring writer at The Age was right, and the political pundits at The Oz wrong — if one can tell right from wrong when so many are spinning the story so energetically.

Yesterday the spin cycle went into reverse, with Toyota “clarifying” suggestions that the funding wasn’t needed. Our sister publication Business Spectator has the Toyota statement in full, and some analysis from Robert Gottliebsen.

So how does The Oz handle this? Coyly.

Buried at the end of a page four story today is this paragraph:

The Australian understands that when the Victorian Government began negotiating with Toyota last December, state government figures were also convinced that the company had decided to produce the hybrid in Thailand. The about face from Toyota came after lengthy negotiations involving Mr Brumby, Senator Carr and Victorian Industry Minister Theo Theophanous.

In other words, “we were wrong”.

The reverse cycle also makes the commentary of some News Limited columnists look a bit foolish.

The Oz story goes on to say the federal Opposition “seized” on the Toyota comments suggesting the subsidy wasn’t needed.

Well, not as keenly as you seized on them, mateys. Or perhaps you are the Federal Opposition?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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